Leadership Retreat 2017: Ubutwari,a strong value of the Rwandan culture

In reflection of recent celebrations of Heroes Day, the role of Ubutwari was one of the topics that were discussed at the U.S. Rwandan Diaspora Leadership Retreat.

On February 4th 2017, 26 Rwandan Community leaders from many different states in the U.S. were hosted by Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana for a Leadership Retreat.

This gathering was an opportunity to celebrate heroes Day with community leaders and to discuss the 2017 action plan for community empowerment and continued engagement with Rwanda.

As the Rwandan Diaspora in the U.S. continues to grow, community leaders are increasingly involved in ensuring that they are harnessing the potential of their community members, actively engaging them, and continuing the conversation on the diaspora’s contributions to the development of their country, Rwanda.

This retreat was also the first opportunity for the newly elected committee to meet face to face since their elections which took place in December 2016.

Professor Aimable Twagilimana, the current president of the National Leadership welcomed those present and thanked them for having honored the invitation. “Your presence here is a testament to your commitment to serve our communities across the United States. I trust that we will work together to bring about the goals we set for 2017,” said Prof. Twagilimana.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Mukantabana reflected on the role of Intwari and how Rwandans are benefiting from their Heroic acts. “We are here because of the hard work of many who came before us, and the fruits we bear will benefit the generations ahead,” said Ambassador Mukantabana.

In observance of Heroes Day, Colonel Vincent Nyakarundi, the Defense Attaché to the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington, D.C. gave a talk on Ubutwari as one of the strong values of Rwandan culture. USRD leadership retreat explored Ubutwari as a pillar for community organizing and mobilizing. Ubutwari is being prepared to sacrifice your life for the greater good for your people, your communities, and your country,” said Col Nyakarundi as he reminded the leaders that being a hero doesn’t necessarily mean being in the battlefield. He urged those present to carry on their duties as community leaders with the same heroic spirit that many Rwandans have embodied in order for the nation to develop.

First Counselor Lawrence Manzi presented on the efforts of the Embassy to reach out to Rwandans across the U.S. by encouraging the creation of new structured communities, consolidating the existing ones, identifying and reaching out to untapped communities.

Mr. Manzi encouraged those present to use their skills and networks to actively contribute to the development of Rwanda by giving an example of the Atlanta community that recently committed to focusing on supporting TVETs in Rwanda. “It is our duty, as leaders, to uphold and nurture the Rwanda brand. It is hallmark that our country has built. We must sustain it,” urged Mr. Manzi.

Leaders engaged in a conversation on lessons learnt from the previous years and agreed to be increasingly accountable for the responsibilities that have been bestowed upon them by their community members, maintain communication and leverage sub groups of their communities such as youth and women to drive the progress in their communities. Prof. Twagilimana concluded this session by reflecting back to the lessons learnt from the leadership of President Paul Kagame. “The exemplary leadership that we have in Rwanda must trickle down to the community level. The sacrifice of those who liberated our country must not be taken for granted,” said Professor Twagilimana.

During this meeting, participants reviewed the 2016 diaspora activities and evaluated their mobilization strategy in their respective communities. Conversation on reaching out to more Rwandans ensued, and leaders made a new commitment to increase their presence within their community and to engage many who are still isolated from communities.

Participants also held a conversation on leadership core values and shared best practices in dealing with challenges that arise in the diaspora such as genocide denial and misleading media propaganda. They re-committed themselves to increasing awareness in their communities at large by way of events such as Walk to Remember, Kwibuka, Kwibohora, Elections 2017, and going forward, the celebration of Heroes Day.

The Leadership Retreat is a yearly event that brings together all elected leaders from Rwandan communities across the United States, thought leaders in various area, and the embassy for discussion on how to sustain existing communities and explore avenues for further growth.